One Big Idea by N Ramamoorthi: PR = PUBLIC Relations

22 Feb,2013

By N Ramamoorthi, President & Country Head, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

 

PR in India has often been associated with outcomes related to very select communities. Shareholders, investors, business audiences, influencers. How about adding the public at large?

 

It is natural for companies to engage with stakeholders who have a tangible influence on their business – through customer service, marketing, advertising, and local community programmes. Why should they engage with people who have no direct connection with their business?

 

Because the public is becoming involved.

The basic lesson from the (oft quoted) Anna Hazare movement – even though there was no constitutional need to do so, Parliament had to engage with a group of people who got involved.

 

As a country, we are going through a difficult period of economic change. On the one hand, significant development – new roads, schools, malls and airports. On the other, a segment of population that can see, but does not have the means to experience this development. (And I don’t just mean the bottom of the pyramid here).

 

This disparity will either lead to unrealistic expectations, or to resentment. And then at the first opportunity, to involvement. Think about the recent case in Mumbai where there was a brief movement against payment of road tolls.

 

It is not that any of these feelings are new. It is just that they are now gaining a stronger voice. Through social media and even through traditional media – look at the number of articles that use members of the public to support their story.

 

It would therefore be a great idea for companies to actively add the public to their list of stakeholders. Research their opinions – on the company and its corporate reputation, on its leadership, on its products, on the industry even. Find and associate with a cause that resonates with the public. Proactively put programmes in place to advocate the cause. Show how the company works towards achieving it.

 

This will not only ring-fence a company from potential crises, but also help its business in the long run.

Miles Young, the Worldwide Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather recently had this to say at a ThinkTank Live summit, “In the new world, the role of PR is to help socialize the enterprise”. To me, it means, give the public “emotional ownership” of your company.

 

After all that’s what PR is all about, isn’t it? Not just consumer, but Public relations.

 

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